Ross (Ross on Wye)

Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

ROSS, a market-town and parish in the hundred of GREYTREE, county of HEREFORD, 14 miles (S.E.) from Hereford, and 120 (W.N.W.) from London, containing 2957 inhabitants. Tradition reports this place to have been founded from the ruins of the Roman town Ariconium, which stood at a short distance. It was formerly a free borough, having been made so by Henry III. In the thirty-third year of the reign of Edward I. it sent members to parliament, but this privilege was relinquished, on the petition of the inhabitants, the following year, and has never been resumed. Henry IV. passed a night here, on his way to Monmouth to see his queen, at the time his son and successor was born; and the unfortunate Charles I. slept here, in 1645, on his way from Ragland Castle. The town is situated on an eminence, at the foot of which the river Wye runs, in a meandering course, in the midst of a richly-cultivated, beautiful, and picturesque country: it consists chiefly of two streets, crossing each other, which- are narrow and badly paved; and the houses generally are old and ill-constructed, though the town has of late years been much improved, and some good houses have been built: the inhabitants are well supplied with water, raised by an engine from the Wye.

A Horticultural Society has been established, by which three hundred prizes and thirty silver medals are annually distributed, with flowers and fruit; and there is an annual display of the works of artists; besides a mechanics institution, and four reading societies. Ross had formerly a considerable trade in iron, which has long declined, cider and wool being the principal articles of produce at present. A weekly market was granted by King Stephen to Bishop Betren, to be held on Thursday; it is well supplied with cattle and provisions: there are fairs on Thursday after March 10th, Ascension-day, June 21st, July 20th, Thursday after October 10th, and December 11th. The town is divided into two parts, called the Borough and the Foreign; and a serjeant at mace, four constables, and some other subordinate officers, are chosen at a court leet and baron, which is held about Michaelmas, by the nominal mayor, for the former, and two constables for the latter: the petty sessions for the hundred are holden here.

The living is a rectory and a vicarage united, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Hereford, rated in the king's books at £.38. 16. 3., and. in the patronage of the Bishop of Hereford. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is an irregularly built, though handsome, edifice, with a lofty well-proportioned spire, in an extremely beautiful situation; the east window is ornamented with stained glass, and contains a figure of Thomas de Cantelupe, Bishop of Hereford, in the act of giving benediction. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, and Independents. In the churchyard is a free school, called St. Mary's, founded and endowed with £10 per annum by Lord Weymouth, in 1709; it has lately been rebuilt, and two sons of poor tradesmen of the borough are instructed here.

The Blue-coat school was founded, in 1709, by Dr. Whiting, Lord Scudamore, and others, and endowed, in 1786, with £200 per annum, by Walter Scott, who had been educated in it; sixty boys and girls are clothed and instructed. Two National schools for boys and girls are supported by voluntary contributions, as well as a dispensary, and an infant school recently established. There is an hospital for seven poor parishioners, who receive a weekly allowance, founded by Mr. Webbe, a native of the town. The Bishops of Hereford, who were lords of the manor, had formerly a palace here, but it has been long since demolished; and the prison belonging to them was pulled down about ninety years since; an old stone cross, called Cob's Cross, a corruption of Corpus Christi Cross, is still standing, supposed to be commemorative of the ravages of the plague in 1635, and the two subsequent years.

Ross was the birthplace of John de Ross, a celebrated Doctor of Law, who was established by the pope in the bishoprick of Carlisle, without any election, in 1318, and died in 1331. The benevolent John Kyrle, "Pope's man of Ross", died here in 1724, aged eighty-eight, and lies buried in the church, where a rich monument, with a medallion, was erected to his memory, in 1776, from a bequest by Lady Betty Duplin for that purpose. At the castellated mansion of L. Merrick, Esq., near Ross, is a celebrated collection of ancient armour, and other antiquities, which attracts numerous visitors.

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